When one of my british friends passed on to me a pic of what seemed to be just an ordinary tent-sized man-made stone structure, I quickly rung my mobilephone to ask him about what’s this intriguing photo is all about. The surprise answer was they are indeed tombs used in countries in ancient times and Oman is interestingly one of them. True enough,Oman was home to a number of ancient beehive tombs that were only ‘discovered’ by the West twenty years ago, and are relatively unspoiled, The earliest stone-built tombs which can be called “beehive” are in Oman, built of stacked flat stones that exist in nearby geological formations. As gleaned from what I researched in brief about this tombs, they are believed to date back between 2700 and 2000 BC from the Umm al Nar or Hafit period of the Bronze Age at period in time when the Arabian Peninsula was subject to much more rainfall than now, and supported a flourishing civilization in what is now desert to the west of the mountain range along the Gulf of Oman. No burial remains have ever been retrieved from these “tombs,” though there seems no other purpose for the buildings.The tombs are communal burial chambers for one, two or more people and in terms of age are comparable to the oldest of the pyramids in Egypt. The tombs are situated on an elevated terrace of the Batinah coastal plain, which is believed to be a region of copper mining and trade with Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley during this period.
Dating back to history, Messenia holds the record for the oldest beehive tomb discovery. Due probably to the large influence the Minoans had over the Aegean region at the time, the Minoan style of burial, the chamber tomb, had been the most frequent style used from about 1600 B.C.E. to 1100 B.C.E., After about 1500 B.C.E., beehive tombs became more widespread, suggesting to many archaeologists that the influence of the Minoans was in decline. From Messenia, the beehive tomb spread to other areas of Greece, particularly Argolid, Laconia, and Attica. Beehive tombs, are a monumental Late Bronze Age development of the Mycenaean civilization that eventually replaced the old style of chamber tombs. It was named such after the vaulted dome shape of the main burial chamber that resembles the shape of a beehive.The change in burial styles has been a significant development in archaeology for it signifies a shift in ancient Greek society. The beehive tomb required considerable effort to construct, and thus was only available to powerful leaders. The appearance of similar structures in different cultures is also of interest to social scientists, in some cases indicating the influence of one civilization over others, in other cases indicating the lack of sufficient common features, suggesting independent development of the structures. In all cases, however, the beehive tombs are a fascinating example of human creativity and desire to respect and honor those whose lives impacted their society.
The way the people treat the dead at this ancient times gives some archaeologist reason to think and ponder about the mentality of long gone civilizations. Developments in tomb structures usually correlate with developments in society. Hence, although the reason for the switch from chamber to beehive tombs remains in contention among archaeologists, there are nonetheless many who are in agreement due to social implications arising from the change. As beehive tombs became more popular in Greece, they began to become regulated to the highest class of citizens; only royalty and the highest non-royalty bureaucrats and their families were entombed in beehive structures.